Eight US soldiers killed in Iraq

AFP, March 11, 2008

BAGHDAD (AFP) — Insurgents killed eight US soldiers in two separate attacks in 24 hours in Iraq and nine more people died on Tuesday in clashes in the north.

In one of the deadliest days for the US military in several months, the insurgents on Monday killed three US soldiers and their translator in the Iraqi province of Diyala where a massive American and Iraqi military sweep has been targeting Al-Qaeda militants.

The military, which announced the Diyala incident and casualties on Tuesday, said another soldier was also wounded in the bomb attack.

On Monday, five other US soldiers were killed and three wounded in a suicide attack in the once upscale neighbourhood of Mansur in Baghdad, the military said.

The Baghdad attack, announced the same day as it occurred, was the deadliest on American troops in two months.

"Five US soldiers were killed today when their dismounted patrol was struck by a suicide bomber. Three US soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were wounded as well," military spokesman Lieutenant Michael Street said.

The latest deaths bring the US military's death toll since the March 2003 invasion to 3,983, according to an AFP tally based on independent website

Most of the casualties have been in roadside bomb attacks across provinces such as Baghdad, Diyala and Al-Anbar.

The previous most deadly attack on US troops was on January 9 when six US soldiers were killed when they entered a booby-trapped house in Diyala.

The previous deadliest day for the military was August 22, 2007, when 14 American soldiers were killed in northern Iraq after their Blackhawk helicopter came down during a pre-dawn flight.

Describing the Baghdad attack, witnesses said a convoy of five or six military vehicles stopped in front of Al-Jadarji building in Mansur and a group of soldiers walked to the opposite side of the road to buy clothes from a shop called Al-Anaka.

After around 10 minutes, the men left the shop and the bomber struck.

The mounting toll comes at a time when the military is reducing its troops amid claims that daily violence has fallen since August.

The military's losses in Iraq is one of the key issues in the November 2008 US presidential elections and has hit the campaign of President George W. Bush's Republican party.

Washington plans to pull out by the middle of 2008 the entire 30,000 extra troops it despatched as part of a controversial "surge" policy that began last February.

Last week it said about 2,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division would be withdrawn within the next few weeks as part of this plan.

The US military at present has 158,000 troops in Iraq.

But data gathered by Iraq's ministries of interior, defence and health, indicates violence surged by 33 percent last month compared with January.

The data showed that 721 Iraqis were killed in February against 541 in January.

In another example of the sustained violence, at least nine people, including four policemen, were killed in clashes in the northern city of Mosul on Tuesday, medical and police officials said.

A police officer from Mosul said fierce clashes broke out between police and insurgents in the city's southern district of Al-Mithaq. Four policemen, one civilian and four insurgents were killed in the firefight, he said.

Dr Nuri Ahmed from Mosul general hospital said nine bodies including those of the policemen were brought to his facility.

Mosul has witnessed high levels of violence in the past months and the US military claims the city to be the last urban bastion of the Iraqi branch of Al-Qaeda.

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